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Fat Loss Hierarchy Pyramid - Most important to least!

By Jake Biggs, Nutrition Longevity


Fat loss… So much information, misinformation, ambiguity, confusion and more! I am here to break it down for you in a simple, easy to understand, evidence based manner. A hierarchy fat loss pyramid clearly illustrates this from a visual point of view. Read on for Nutrition Longevity’s fat loss hierarchy!



1. Positive psychological mindset: Yes – Although caloric deficit is essential for fat loss, we must ensure that individual psychology is on point! This is the KEY missing link when beginning a fat loss journey. Implementing a caloric deficit diet on paper should be simplistic and easy to understand. However implementing, incorporating and sustaining a caloric deficit dietary paradigm is a whole other story in itself. Allocating time and effort in ensuring that one’s psychology is in a goal orientated, focused mindset is paramount to a successful fat loss journey.


2. Caloric deficit: In other words – A negative energy balance. The body requires to be below maintenance calories (amount of calories to maintain body weight) for fat loss. When you look different dietary paradigms (low carbohydrate, ketogenic, low fat, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, paleo); although these diets have different food manipulations, how it works and achieves the goal is creating a caloric deficit. Without a calorie deficit, fat loss is not going to be achieved!


3. Micronutrients: Micronutrients (micro-small) are the vitamins and minerals that the body requires for essential physiological and psychological processes, these are as important as macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and dietary fat). Micronutrients must be obtained from the diet and although these vitamins and minerals do not require uptake of large amounts, if a deficiency of a specific or numerous micronutrients is apparent, fat loss is impaired due to several factors that include reduced metabolic rate, impaired blood glucose regulation and disrupted energy metabolism.


4. Protein intake: As we have determined that a calorie deficit is required for fat loss, we now need to implement dietary manipulations in order to assist our caloric deficit dietary intake. A crucial component of this is protein. Yes! Out of all the macronutrients protein (coming from the Greek word of ‘first importance) is actually that, the most important macronutrient for effective fat loss. Out of all the macronutrients protein has the highest thermic effect of food (TEF) or in scientific language diet-induced thermogenesis. TEF is the amount of calories required for the body to digest, absorb, metabolise and assimilate the food in the body. Protein has a TEF of 20-30% compared to carbohydrates (5-10%) and dietary fat (0-3%). Furthermore, protein as a macronutrient rate has the highest satiety, meaning that protein rich foods help keep you fuller for longer; further curtailing hunger.


5. Weight training: Weight training (resistance training) is considered the ‘gold standard’ for exercise to assist with fat loss. Although a large amount of the world population believe that cardiovascular exercise is the most superior form of exercise for fat loss, scientific research continually proves this incorrect. Although cardiovascular exercise burns slightly more calories in the same duration of weight training, weight training increases metabolic rate and subsequent calorie expenditure up to 48 hours post training session! This is in scientific terms called ‘excess post oxygen consumption’ (EPOC).


6. Sleep: Sleep is simply when the body rejuvenates, replenishes and recovers on a daily basis. Inadequate sleep has also been scientifically shown to be correlated with higher body mass, increased hunger, impaired blood glucose management, increased adipose tissue (body fat) and a higher likelihood for development of obesity. If an individual is sleep deprived, the hormone that regulates appetite (leptin) is supressed and the hormone that stimulates hunger (ghrelin) is upregulated; meaning that caloric consumption will be increased due to increased hunger. Adequate sleep is essential for optimal fat loss.


7. Cardio: Although as mentioned above, resistance training is the gold standard; this does not mean that cardio does not have a place in effective fat loss. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise increases energy expenditure (burning calories). Therefore, it can be effective with creating the caloric deficit as essential caloric intake can be static, but with implementing cardiovascular exercise a deficit will be created with keeping calorie intake the same. This means that you can keep calories at maintenance calories and still be in a deficit by increasing your aerobic exercise. Same food and less body mass!


8. Supplements: No – As much as supplement companies want you to believe supplements are not going to drastically stimulate fat loss. As the word says ‘supplement’ is supplementing a diet (food) that is set up for optimal fat loss. Research has identified specific supplements that can assist and support fat loss (caffeine, green tea extract, protein powder, soluble fibre, L-carnitine, conjugated linolenic acid and 5-hydroxytryotpphan), but these can and should be implemented when diet is sufficient from a macronutrient and micronutrient density point of view.


As a nutritional medicine practitioner, as being a further nutritional coach when a client presents with a fat loss goal; before I even formulate a dietary plan to support this, I spend a considerable amount of time ensuring the psychology is on point! Clients really respond well to this with assisting on the fat loss journey. Once psychology is on point, it makes dietary manipulations and sustaining these manipulations much more straight forward and effective!